Niels Bohr, a founder of quantum mechanics, was a Mystic

Modern physics leads to mysticism. Why? What do we find when we pull apart reality? Perhaps that we can’t ultimately pull it apart.

“[Niels Bohr] was mystifying and mystical, in the proper sense of being a mystic.”

“Locality is dead. Space is dead. Space is now a discredited concept. Something deeper is going on, something that welds the world together [as one].”

—Lee Smolin, current theoretical physicist

First, a video with Lee Smolin:

The ultimate Truth about reality and the cosmos I perceive is to be found in mysticism, in this deepest of intuitions and insights that the world and cosmos are not made up of many separate independent objects and beings in space, but are components in a single continuous whole, that just appears to us as differentiated and a multiplicity.

Why does it appear differentiated if it is really a continuous whole? Why this illusion in our senses and minds? Perhaps because in order to know anything, to experience anything, that thing must be distinguished from another thing, it must appear to have a difference of properties in order to recognize it as any unique “thing,” in contrast with other things. If it all appeared undifferentiated to us, as a “compound in one” (2 Nephi 2:11), then there would be no knowing, no existing, and no experience whatsoever.

Difference is known so that existence may be, otherwise there is no being and no knowing. But just because we seem to know a difference between one thing and another doesn’t mean that in their essence those two things are not one and the same, part of a single essence, a single field, a single flow, a single whole. A Singularity is expressing itself as a difference, in the polarity of our everyday experience. The One is manifesting itself as the “many.”

And so we see all this differentiation, all these different things, and space separating them, so that we may “know” them, relatively speaking. We know them in relation, in relationship, in interaction with ourselves. And this is another discovery of modern science and physics, that nothing exists independently, but rather is part of a great web of relationship.

As Carlo Rovelli, another prominent modern theoretical physicist, recently has written in his books, “all reality is interaction.” What is interacting? Good question. If nothing truly exists independently, then it is not as if many absolutely independent entities are interacting with each other. They are parts of the same greater Whole that are interacting.

The One is interacting within itself. The Singularity, the single continuous field of existence, of the cosmos, is acting within itself, parts of itself touching other parts, parts responding to other parts, parts giving themselves to others within the greater Whole. If this is beginning to sound somewhat sensual, maybe this is why the mystics have often sounded that way. The very makeup of the cosmos and the Divine is Love itself.

The kicker is this: we cannot come to know this One, this Singularity, this Whole, as something independent, objective, or “out there,” from our ordinary state of consciousness. Physicists will never be able to discover it, in an ultimate sense, but only the shadows of it on the cave wall, the effects of it. They will never find it, itself. Because we are in it! We too are made up of it. And from our relative state of rational consciousness, or “frame of reference,” which Einstein discovered much about, we will never be able to know it as an objective “thing.”

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Because the One is not another “thing” out there. It is the whole thing! The Divine is not another thing among things in this cosmos, but is the totality of it. We are embedded in this totality, this Singularity, as expressions of it, and the only way of knowing it is by transcending the relative mind and realizing the deepest part of our own being, consciousness itself.

Beyond the relative ego-self finite mind, deeper than all intellectual subject-object knowing, above all rationality and logic, in the “heavens” of knowing itself, we find Consciousness at the heart of who we are, of what we are, and somehow it is also the essence of all things. It is the center and foundation and absolute. We cannot know the Whole, as an object of mind, but only as the subject of consciousness, what mind arises from, as what we ourselves are in our deepest identity.

It’s not any “thing” out there, but the very foundation of our being right here, and of all being. And only by deep diving into our own consciousness, and beyond even our own “self,” can we come to know it. There are many means of doing this, many of them known as contemplative practices, but there may be other means of altering our state of consciousness so as to realize this Whole that we ourselves are.

We can’t come to know God by looking out of our eyes at “other” objects or persons. We can only know God by discovering who it is that is looking, that is aware, that is conscious. As it is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” Then we will realize that all beings who look, who have consciousness within themselves looking, acting, living, being, existing in form, are aspects or expressions of that same God that is in us, which is the same fundamental absolute of our existence and all existence.

And this is the source of all compassion and Love, that which “welds the world together” not only physically, but in every other way as well.

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2 thoughts on “Niels Bohr, a founder of quantum mechanics, was a Mystic

  1. Quantum physicists Heisenberg, Schroedinger, de Broglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington were supporters of mysticism. A good reference is “Quantum Questions / Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists,” edited by Ken Wilber (Shambhala 1984, 2001)

    Divine Reality is infinitely here and eternally now, not within the spatial or temporal constraints of earthly realities. No words can ever describe ultimate Reality, yet a single word might suffice: One. Some people call it omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; some mystics speak of the One underlying the many, the Real within all and beyond any of the apparent real. It is what ‘is’ here and now.

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